This is a question I get asked often. I can answer only for myself as I know writers differ greatly from one another on how quickly they can produce a finished book. Even for me it varies. One book a while ago took me a whole year to finish, but another many years back took two weeks! A few people asked on my Facebook page what my daily quota is. It is 2,000 words, and the length of my books is 100,000 words. If you are at all functional with multiplication, you may assume that it therefore takes me fifty days to write a whole book. Not so!
What happens is that, no matter how carefully I try to get to know my characters and their backstory before I begin writing, I discover once they start acting and reacting and talking and thinking on the page that I really don’t know them at all. They keep growing from within. They constantly surprise me. And their backstory, those events that shaped them and loaded them down with all the baggage they have to deal with in the course of the story before they are fully ready to love and be loved–all of that reveals itself and fills itself in with agonizing slowness. But discovering some small thing from the past can make all the difference to the story I am telling. In The Notorious Rake, for example, the heroine’s friend asks her close to the beginning of the book if she realizes that Edmond killed his mother and brother. I remember thinking, “Whoa!” when I saw those words appear on the screen before me. I had no idea she was going to say that. My immediate urge was to erase the words. But I didn’t and they were actually the key to the whole story and the very complex character of the notorious rake. Once these things reveal themselves, of course, I have to go back through the whole book making adjustments accordingly. I often compare getting to know my characters to peeling layers off an onion, but if I really consider that image, it is more the opposite that happens. I spend the whole book piling on the layers so that the reader can have the satisfaction of peeling them off. In other words, like all writers:
On average, then, a book takes me about four months to write. There are exceptions. The two-week book was A Precious Jewel. The hero, Sir Gerald Stapleton, was a minor character in The Ideal Wife, friend of the hero. He was restless and depressed in that book because his long-time mistress, whom he had taken out of a brothel, had left him to marry someone else and he couldn’t forget her. I found myself haunted by their relationship and wondering if she would go through with her plans to marry someone else or return to him. I longed to write their love story. The trouble was that I was writing Regency romances and there was no way I was going to get away with having a prostitute as a heroine. I tried the idea out on a few writer friends and they gave a unanimous thumbs down. But I couldn’t NOT write the story and it finally poured out of me in a two-week period, after which I put the manuscript up on a shelf for two years because it was unpublishable. Then, on a whim, I sent it in and waited for the verdict. After a long wait, I called my editor to ask about it–and she told me the book was in copyediting!
It would be nice if all books could be written that quickly! Though maybe not. Part of the wonderful thrill of writing is the journey of discovery into two characters destined to love each other to the depths of their souls for long ages after the last page has been written. Although writing can be a painful process, I am not sure I would have it otherwise.
To one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment here before the end of next Tuesday, July 2, I will send a signed copy of either THE IDEAL WIFE or A PRECIOUS JEWEL or A COUNTERFEIT BETROTHAL/THE NOTORIOUS RAKE (winner’s choice). Last week’s winner was Mary T. Congratulations to her, and thank you to all who made comments. As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed reading them.